Rated: 2.5-3 / 5 (depending on my mood)
Completely Tangent Intro
So I was playing through The Witcher 3, with all the DLC installed. And after, I don’t know, between 50-60 hours of playing, as good as that game is, all I could think was, “Goddamnit, isn’t this fucking game over yet? How fucking long is this thing?” I feel bad saying that, because it is a really good 5/5 game I plan on reviewing some time down the line so I can say I reviewed the entire trilogy. But I guess epically (I don’t give a fuck if that isn’t a real word) long games and me don’t always mix. I’m the kind of guy who prefers game lengths (as in from beginning to end of one play, not including replays) to be between 8-20 hours, maybe 30 hours if it’s good enough. And I knew what I was getting into, because I played it a long while back and I remember clocking in at just under 80 hours of playtime. Throw in a couple DLCs that each add an additional 6-8 hours of playtime, and you see why it is that game is so goddamn long. The Witcher 3 is one of those games that I just can’t power through like I normally do for most games, it’s too long for that. It’s more like one of those games where you just do 1 quest (either a main quest or a secondary quest, maybe throw in a few treasure/monster hunts for the hell of it), savor it and the details, and then stop. Rinse and repeat for another 50 sessions or so, and then there it is. Otherwise someone like me gets burned out. Granted, it didn’t start to happen until I was about 40 hours into it, but that’s 40 fucking hours! I thought about holding off on reviewing that game until I play it through again on New Game+ mode, but fuck that. That’s like doing a marathon of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the extended cuts, and then saying you’re going to do it twice in a row. Not me.
So what does this have to do with Resident Evil 7? Well, for starters, it’s an easier to digest game that clocks in at an acceptable 9-10 hours on a first playthrough on Normal difficulty, which gave me a sigh of relief compared to the daunting task of finishing a Witcher game. Snack time.
The Actual Review
Ok, so first of all, I have played most of the previous Resident Evil games.
Ok, maybe not most. Just Resident Evil 0 (GCN), 1 (GCN remake, which is the best way to play it, minus the dumb fucking decision to throw in the crimson heads), 2 (my personal favorite out of all the games, but that’s another story), 3 (arguably the best one next to 2), Code: Vernoica (the first Resident Evil game I didn’t really care for all that much next to RE:0, plus I hated them bringing back Wesker and making him and the protagonists come straight out of The Matrix), 4 (the main reason people like this game is because of the updated third-person gameplay which is done well, and the self-awareness at how ridiculous it is; I thought it was just ok, albeit an entertaining time regardless), 5 (played it co-op with another real human being too; otherwise the only memorable thing about it is finally seeing Wesker die, though he should’ve stayed fucking dead in the first fucking game), and a couple of the spinoff games which aren’t memorable enough for me to even remember the titles. As for Resident Evil 6, I skipped out on that shit. As far as I’m concerned, it got over-the-top enough with Code Veronica and 5; the franchise needed to die rather than keep coming back to life (which I guess makes the Umbrella Corporation a metaphor for Capcom).
And then this game comes along. So it’s more or less a reboot for the franchise, moving away from the superhuman heroics (thank fucking Christ), and turning to a more immersive 1st-person horror-shooter (not on-the-rails like House of the Dead or those mediocre at best Wii games). And it didn’t star any of the leads we’ve become accustomed to. And I’ve heard positive reviews about the game. So I decided to snatch it up off of Steam while it was on sale, but didn’t start playing it until about a week ago, when I found out that about a couple months after purchasing it they released a Gold Edition of the game. Well fuck you too Capcom! You see why I’m hesitant to purchase any brand-spankin’ new game within the first year it comes out (patches for bugs aside)?
So how was it? Eh, it was ok. I don’t know man, I don’t know if its because I’m getting too old for most games, or because I’ve played so many that it becomes very difficult to please me outside of nostalgia-baiting. Or maybe it’s because the current state of the game industry makes me a little sick to my stomach, more so that all the gross-out moments this game shoved in my virtual face.
I will say that, by the end of it all, it did feel like a Resident Evil game. But at the same time, it also felt like it took as many steps forward as it did backward, which frustrated me. The main thing to discuss in that regard is the one thing I usually play games for nowadays, and that’s the story and/or characters. Because games nowadays focus more on the look/feel/flash than they do on the gameplay. And when it comes to first-person-shooters (FPS), that’s probably all that genre has left going for it. Gone are the days where you could just play something like Doom I and II (the newer one from 2016 does not count) or Duke Nukem 3D, or Painkiller: Black, or Descent I-III. You know, shooters with virtually no narrative or story outside the instruction manual (back when games came with those), where all you had to do was get weapons and blow shit up. Those are a-dime-a-dozen, and it’s not exactly a high bar to meet when it comes to crafting an FPS game. So we need to have story and characters to help stand out from the rest and get us gamers more easily immersed into the game.
So, story. You play as some random dude who’s wife has disappeared, and you receive a message from her to stay away and forget about her. So rather than forget about her and get another smoking hot wife to bang, he decides not to heed her advice and go out into the middle of “I buttfuck my daughter; redneck swamp land” nowhere, and decides to approach a house that looks like it’s been abandoned for a few years, if not a decade, crawls through swamp water and sewage and bugs and rotten food and other shit (maybe literally) until he finally finds a backdoor into the house where she is supposedly located. You know, it might be because I’m not the heroic type, but I would’ve decided that she’s not worth this, and drove out of “I buttfuck my daughter” land back to “I buttfuck any hot chick who isn’t related to me” land (though with this franchise there would probably be a twist to that). I mean, at least in the other Resident Evil games, the protagonists were thrust into these sorts of situations against their will, and usually due to extreme circumstances demanding extreme measures. Either that or the protagonists were so muscular and heroic and martial arts masters that it just seemed by-the-numbers by their standards.
But I digress. Our protagonist eventually goes on to find his wife, who then goes berserk and kicks the crap out of you and saws your hand off, before you get captured by some redneck dad named Bubba who introduces you to the rest of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family (seriously, the parallels are impossible to ignore unless you haven’t seen that movie; the original Tobe Hooper movie from the 70s, none of the remakes you smart-asses). Well, it got me a bit interested.
The thing is though, there’s something about these graphic styles for these games that put me off. Something about the 3D modelling, the way they talk, the way they act, how they can never smile right. And most important of all, how hard it tries to be realistic with the graphics. It’s just something about that sort of emphasis on realism in a videogame that just doesn’t suit me. I just can’t help but have the attitude of, “Who are you trying to fool? You could have the effects as bad as Goldeneye on the N64 or as good as, I don’t know, whatever game exists now that people consider to be top of the line in terms of graphics, and it would all be the same to me.” Bit of an exaggeration, but hopefully you see what I’m getting at. It might just be a personal thing, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in thinking this.
Side-tracked again; back to the story. So let’s just say that as the game goes on, the main villain/monster turns out to be some Ring/Grudge/Ju-On/F.E.A.R. chick. Alright, you know what? If this game is going to pull cliches like that out of its ass, it really should do so with a more tongue-in-cheek attitude. But it plays things straight. That trait is endearing in the first 3 Resident Evil games, but that doesn’t appeal to me here.
The last thing I’ll mention about the story, kind of. There’s this moment in the game where you have to “make a choice.” Whoah, a choice? Where your decision affects the events in the game as well as the ending? Do tell! There’s nothing to tell. Like most games that do this, it’s not really a choice. It doesn’t matter who you choose to save. Sure the choice does give you a different ending in the long-run, but it’s really stupid how saving one kills them both, saving the other gives you a happy ending with one of them living. Would’ve been more intriguing if saving one gets you that girl at the end, while saving the other gets you that girl. Not going to work that way, so the game just kinda beats you up for making a choice that seems more ethically wrong, I guess. So it ends up being a waste of time inserting this so half-assedly into the game. But it could’ve worked well if it had that tongue-in-(butt)cheek attitude. Hey, if this game is going to be immature about this shit, then so am I. On that note, when the decision came up, I chose the non-wife (Zoe). Why? Well because Zoe kept helping me in her own way with getting out of the place through a good portion of the game, while the wife (Mia) did nothing but do spouse abuse so extreme I’m surprised she didn’t resort to slicing my dick off.
There is a problem with this game, and I’m pretty sure I heard about it well-before ever purchasing it, but I think I chose to forget about it thinking, “No, that just can’t be.” But it’s definitely there (poor choice of words). So here’s the problem. There are no zombies. There’s not one foot-stepping, undead-moaning, dick-sucking zombie in this entire game. Nothing in this game qualifies as a zombie as far as I’m concerned (anyone who says otherwise is stretching the definition too far). Sure there are people who aren’t normal people, but they’re not normal in the same sense that all the regular enemies in Resident Evil 4 aren’t normal. You know, in Resident Evil 4, all those not-zombie people had a decent enough awareness, they could talk, they could run a bit, and they could weld weapons, and they could mutate and shoot black stuff out of their heads. Pretty much the same thing here, except the not-zombies in this game can pass off as normal people (at least as far as isolated hillbillies in a swamp can go for normalcy) . They walk and talk like normal people, but they’re just stronger than average and are almost impossible to kill by any regular means (but in a Resident Evil game, nothing is regular). And there’s only like 3, maybe 4, of them. The rest of the time you’ll either be against these black gooey man-alligator things, giant mosquitoes, fat blubbery fucks, and the lickers (when they show up). So boss fights aside (which are just mutations of the not-zombie people), there’s only like 4 different enemy types. And that’s it. Even the first Resident Evil game had more variety than that: zombies, zombie dogs, zombie spiders, hunters, zombie birds, zombie snakes, zombie wasps; and those aren’t even the bosses.
And speaking of bosses, yes, this game has enough variety in bosses to satisfy me. But Jesus Christ do they go over-the-top with these boss fights. Granted, they’ve been over-the-top ever since Resident Evil 2 (and it’s hard enough to resist a jumping the shark joke with the first game), but this game was aiming for more gritty realism goddamnit! The fights get more over-the-top as the game goes on, and so do the mutations and monster forms.
There are some nice nods to the first Resident Evil game. Once you get involved in this “game” section where you go through some traps and such, some old-school Resident Evil music plays, and some nostalgic sound effects will go off when you press some buttons. I appreciated the nostalgia. Also didn’t hurt that it was one of the more memorable parts of the game, going through these Saw-like sections. And the game almost convinced me that it was tongue-in-cheek. But only for that section, the rest of the game thinks it’s too good for satire apparently.
At a few points in the game you get to watch some VHS tapes, which treats you to some lost footage films done in the same vane as The Blair Witch Project. Now, the first time this happened I was interested, and there’s one other time where it does serve a legitimate purpose. But for the most part I found them to be irritating distractions. These should be sections that are cutscenes, but instead the game has you play as the person shooting the video (which makes zero sense for the last “video”), which gets even more annoying when you realize you can still screw up and die and have to start over.
As the game went on though, once you’re finally able to grasp what exactly is going on and how things got to be the way they are (ie why there are monsters), the game actually wasn’t half bad. Plus I also became sympathetic to the swamp family, noting how they were before and after the incident, and how they’re crying out for their souls to be freed. A bit of a touching moment I wasn’t expecting from a game like this.
So, despite my gripes, I can say the game is fun enough to be worth a play.
Now, with that all being said, I’d like to take a moment to talk about gaming in general, my personal opinions on the matter. As I said earlier in the review, I fear my tastes in gaming have changed. I fear I may not really be all that much of a gamer anymore. Honestly, I try to do board games more than video games simply because I prefer playing against other human players, face-to-face. You know, for face-to-face social interaction, something I believe society is in dire need of, rather than isolating ourselves and using social media as an illusion for legitimate social interaction.
Gaming to me should be fun. And fun games for me personally, from what I’ve determined when looking back over the years, come in 3 categories:
1.) Short and sweet. Basically games from the Sega Genesis and SNES time period, where the games were short, the difficulty was high, and you had to play it multiple times to get good at it. There are plenty of games that are that old that I would still play to this day, like Contra (practically any of them, especially Hard Corps), Castlevania I III and Bloodlines, Starfox 64 (or the SNES version), among others.
2.) Games with an engrossing story and good characters. The first one to really pull this off for me, which I still maintain to be the best (even if this is predictable) is Final Fantasy VII. Memorable characters in storyline so fucking good I was willing to bear through the typical issues plaguing J-RPGs (random battles, some grinding, repetitive combat). I’m not sure how I’d feel about this one today, but Skies of Arcadia on the GCN wasn’t half-bad either. Tales of Symphonia had decent enough characters and story, and a pretty solid real-time 2D combat system to go along with it. Kane & Lynch (the first one) I consider to be underrated. And Spec Ops: The Line, whew, that whole game is designed to be a huge gut-punch to those who play third-person shooters regularly and don’t think much about the people they kill (look at you Uncharted). Silent Hill 2 is probably one of the best, if not the best, character study games of all time. And, of course, Metal Gear Solid 1-4 and The Witcher 2. Starcraft is arguably the best RTS game in terms of storylines (especially if you read the background story given in the game manual), though I do need to play Warcraft III. Mass Effect 1-3 (though less so for the first one just because the side missions make the game’s pacing suffer considerably). So, in other words, games that you talk about like they were movies when you’re done with them. But God help you if you play a game solely for this reason, and it ends on a cliffhanger with no sequel ever happening (fuck you Valve for not wrapping up Half Life 2).
3.) Games that are paced well and do something right with the overall design, especially level design; and maybe throw in some semblance of a story as a bonus. Super Mario World could arguably be the best designed out of all the traditional Super Mario games in regards to level/game design. Resident Evil 2 is the go-to horror game for me to this day, mainly because it absolutely nails the zombie sounds, both the moans and the footsteps; and how it gets under my skin during the portions where no music is playing; it’s paced pretty damn well too, and has tremendous replay with different bosses you can face; and it really knows how to time a couple of those jump-scares; plus I believe limiting the player’s view to fixed camera positions works to the game’s advantage when it comes to horror and creating tension with the player. Doom I is the best Doom game in terms of pacing and progression, both in terms of level design, the weapons you acquire, and the types of enemies that appear. Doom II isn’t half-bad either, especially with the level design, but the pacing isn’t quite as there, and exists more as a reason for you to just go insane with the shooting, to just unload all those bullets into all those hordes of enemies. It’s one of the reasons why I believe level design is the most important aspect when it comes to crafting an FPS, the second-most important aspect being pacing (types of enemies that show up on each level, which weapons you have each level). Usually the one genre I cut a bit of slack are RPG games, especially The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, mainly because of the mods. Valkyria Chronicles I think is pretty damn good too in terms of gameplay (plus I think the story and characters are so unintentionally hilarious it should be a case study; they have practically every anime cliche/stereotype in the book thrown into that game). And there’s the Dark Souls games; these are games that aren’t afraid to challenge you, and it’s the kind of challenge that I like. And then there’s Master of Orion (the first one, from 1993), which I firmly believe is the best 4X-civ game ever designed to this day, despite the dated graphics (at least it’s not Atari graphics and older, my tolerance for dated graphics doesn’t really extend further back than the 90s). Lastly, I’m terrified of getting into X-Com: UFO Defense again, not because it’s a scary game (though it is tense as hell), but because of how addicted it is; first time I played, I started at like 9am, and next thing I new it was dusk; that scares the shit out of me if a game can make me lose track of time like that.
But anyway, there are some game genres I’d rather not touch just out of personal preference, like sports games and racing games (Grand Theft Auto V I guess could be considered an exception). Aside from those, I’ve become quite picky when it comes to games. Probably because I’d rather use my free time doing something else now. Then again, it could be because the people I used to converse with about gaming in general are no longer around, giving me no one to talk to about this stuff once I’m done with it. And no, writing reviews about games and bitching about them and/or praising them isn’t enough. Or it could just be I’m going through a phase. But considering how much less frequently I’ve been playing videogames over the past couple years compared to how often I’ve played in the past, I doubt it. I guess it’s possible to reach a stage in your life where you’re gamed out, and are only willing to game on things you know for certain are of high quality (ie suited to your preference).
As for Resident Evil 7, it’s just going to be another one of those games that isn’t really all that special to me. Entertaining and fulfilling, sure, but so is a burger from Burger King or Jack in the Box or Carls Jr.; just because it’s fulfilling doesn’t mean it stands out compared to the other games/burgers that are out there. And at this point in my life, I’d rather indulge myself in games that do stand out. As far as I’m concerned, most of those games are in the past, not in the present or future (with some potential exceptions, like Cyberpunk 2077).